It’s hard to know exactly the date of this photograph. The view is in front of the office building. Oxen were frequently used to haul the granite up to the cemetery on sledges. The arch was erected in 1873. To see the image at full size, click on the photo above. (photo courtesy of Oak Grove Cemetery).
For many years, the small, tiled-roof building directly opposite to the office inside the main gate was used as a lavatory and lounge for the lady visitors to the cemetery, and a convenience during funerals for attendees. Currently it is a break room for cemetery staff. It once had the dubious distinction of being the space where the grisly autopsies of Abby and Andrew Borden took place under the eye of medical examiner, Dr. Dolan, city doctor J.H. Leary, Clerk of autopsy, D.E. Cone, and Dr. F.W. Draper of Boston who was called in by Attorney General Albert Pillsbury.
The stained glass lancet windows have been broken and are currently boarded up, but the original deep wainscotting, moldings, and lavatory tiles with a Greek key pattern are still intact.
Click on thumbnails for enlargements of wainscotting and tile
Perhaps the most recalled image of Oak Grove is its graceful granite Gothic Revival archway on the west side of the cemetery. Prospect Street terminates under the arch. Although the cemetery itself was designed in 1855 by Josiah Brown ( a city surveyor and architect), the archway was constructed in 1873. The archway style is not unique to Oak Grove, and may be found in other New England cemeteries of the period. “Oak Grove” is one of the most popular cemetery names in America, and in Fall River’s case, it is appropriate due to the extensive planting of oak trees on the nearly 100 acres of land.
What is remarkable are the exquisite wrought iron gates on either side of the arch; on the right, in front of the office, on the left, in front of the former Ladies Comfort Station. It is unfortunate that no photographs exist of the raising of this arch in 1873, for it must have taken ingenuity and strength. Visitors to the cemetery who pass beneath this arch always pause to read the inscription :
The Shadows Have Fallen And They Wait for the Day
The concept of a beautifully -landscaped park where families might come to visit departed Loved Ones was first fully-realized in London’s Highgate and Cambridge’s Mount Auburn. The Victorians rivalled the Ancient Egyptians in their ritual observances of death and burial, monuments and memorials. Beautiful Oak Grove Cemetery in the North end of Fall River is one of many New England mid- century Victorian memorial parks where the streets are named for trees, and fanciful wrought iron gates enclose the fine families of the city like fences of stately homes in the earthly life.
For those who love cemeteries, – the peacefulness and quiet of the Past- Oak Grove holds unparalleled verdant vistas and peerless carved monuments of another age. Whether a student of Victorian symbolism , or of Fall River history- a pensive hour spent in silence at Oak Grove is a retreat from the pressures of modern society, and a glimpse into the intriguing past of the city’s notable citizens.
Plagued with the problems all cemeteries are faced with today, vandalism, landscaping and maintenance costs, security, lack of volunteerism, etc. -perhaps now is the time for those who truly appreciate the heritage and history enclosed within the gates and walls of Oak Grove to come together.